Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress

Meditation can wipe away the day's stress, bringing with it inner peace. See how you can easily learn to practice meditation whenever you need it most.

If stress has you anxious, tense and worried, consider trying meditation. Spending even a few minutes in meditation can restore your calm and inner peace.

Anyone can practice meditation. It's simple and inexpensive, and it doesn't require any special equipment. And you can practice meditation wherever you are — whether you're out for a walk, riding the bus, waiting at the doctor's office or even in the middle of a difficult business meeting.

Understanding meditation

Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. Meditation originally was meant to help deepen understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. These days, meditation is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction.

Meditation is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine. Meditation produces a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. This process results in enhanced physical and emotional well-being.

Benefits of meditation

Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that benefits both your emotional well-being and your overall health. And these benefits don't end when your meditation session ends. Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day and can even improve certain medical conditions.

Meditation and emotional well-being
When you meditate, you clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress.

The emotional benefits of meditation include:

  • Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
  • Building skills to manage your stress
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Focusing on the present
  • Reducing negative emotions

Meditation and illness
Meditation also might be useful if you have a medical condition, especially one that may be worsened by stress. While a growing body of scientific research supports the health benefits of meditation, some researchers believe it's not yet possible to draw conclusions about the possible benefits of meditation.

With that in mind, some research suggests that meditation may help such conditions as:

  • Allergies
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Asthma
  • Binge eating
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Pain
  • Sleep problems
  • Substance abuse

Be sure to talk to your health care provider about the pros and cons of using meditation if you have any of these conditions or other health problems. In some cases, meditation can worsen symptoms associated with certain mental health conditions. Meditation isn't a replacement for traditional medical treatment. But it may be a useful addition to your other treatment.

Types of meditation

Meditation is an umbrella term for the many ways to a relaxed state of being. There are many types of meditation and relaxation techniques that have meditation components. All share the same goal of achieving inner peace.

Ways to meditate can include:

  • Guided meditation. Sometimes called guided imagery or visualization, with this method of meditation you form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing. You try to use as many senses as possible, such as smells, sights, sounds and textures. You may be led through this process by a guide or teacher.
  • Mantra meditation. In this type of meditation, you silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts.
  • Mindfulness meditation. This type of meditation is based on being mindful, or having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment. You broaden your conscious awareness. You focus on what you experience during meditation, such as the flow of your breath. You can observe your thoughts and emotions but let them pass without judgment.
  • Qi gong. This practice generally combines meditation, relaxation, physical movement and breathing exercises to restore and maintain balance. Qi gong (CHEE-gung) is part of traditional Chinese medicine.
  • Tai chi. This is a form of gentle Chinese martial arts. In tai chi (TIE-chee), you perform a self-paced series of postures or movements in a slow, graceful manner while practicing deep breathing.
  • Transcendental meditation. You use a mantra, such as a word, sound or phrase repeatedly silently, to narrow your conscious awareness and eliminate all thoughts from your mind. You focus exclusively on your mantra to achieve a state of perfect stillness and consciousness.
  • Yoga. You perform a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises to promote a more flexible body and a calm mind. As you move through poses that require balance and concentration, you're encouraged to focus less on your busy day and more on the moment.

Elements of meditation

Different types of meditation may include different features to help you meditate. These may vary depending on whose guidance you follow or who's teaching a class. Some of the most common features in meditation include:

  • Focused attention. Focusing your attention is generally one of the most important elements of meditation. Focusing your attention is what helps free your mind from the many distractions that cause stress and worry. You can focus your attention on such things as a specific object, an image, a mantra, or even your breathing.
  • Relaxed breathing. This technique involves deep, even-paced breathing using the diaphragm muscle to expand your lungs. The purpose is to slow your breathing, take in more oxygen, and reduce the use of shoulder, neck and upper chest muscles while breathing so that you breathe more efficiently.
  • A quiet setting. If you're a beginner, practicing meditation may be easier if you're in a quiet spot with few distractions — no television, radios or cellphones. As you get more skilled at meditation, you may be able to do it anywhere, especially in high-stress situations where you benefit the most from meditation, such as a traffic jam, a stressful work meeting or a long line at the grocery store.
  • A comfortable position. You can practice meditation whether you're sitting, lying down, walking or in other positions or activities. Just try to be comfortable so that you can get the most out of your meditation.

Everyday ways to practice meditation

Don't let the thought of meditating the "right" way add to your stress. Sure, you can attend special meditation centers or group classes led by trained instructors. But you also can practice meditation easily on your own.

And you can make meditation as formal or informal as you like — whatever suits your lifestyle and situation. Some people build meditation into their daily routine. For example, they may start and end each day with an hour of meditation. But all you really need is a few minutes of quality time for meditation.

Here are some ways you can practice meditation on your own, whenever you choose:

  • Breathe deeply. This technique is good for beginners because breathing is a natural function. Focus all attention on your breathing. Concentrate on feeling and listening as you inhale and exhale through your nostrils. Breathe deeply and slowly. When your attention wanders, gently return your focus to your breathing.
  • Scan your body. When using this technique, focus attention on different parts of your body. Become aware of your body's various sensations, whether that's pain, tension, warmth or relaxation. Combine body scanning with breathing exercises and imagine breathing heat or relaxation into and out of different parts of your body.
  • Repeat a mantra. You can create your own mantra, whether it's religious or secular. Examples of religious mantras include the Jesus Prayer in the Christian tradition, the holy name of God in Judaism, or the om mantra of Hinduism, Buddhism and other Eastern religions.
  • Walk and meditate. Combining a walk with meditation is an efficient and healthy way to relax. You can use this technique anywhere you're walking — in a tranquil forest, on a city sidewalk or at the mall. When you use this method, slow down the pace of walking so that you can focus on each movement of your legs or feet. Don't focus on a particular destination. Concentrate on your legs and feet, repeating action words in your mind such as lifting, moving and placing as you lift each foot, move your leg forward and place your foot on the ground.
  • Engage in prayer. Prayer is the best known and most widely practiced example of meditation. Spoken and written prayers are found in most faith traditions. You can pray using your own words or read prayers written by others. Check the self-help or 12-step-recovery section of your local bookstore for examples. Talk with your rabbi, priest, pastor or other spiritual leader about resources.
  • Read and reflect. Many people report that they benefit from reading poems or sacred texts, and taking a few moments to quietly reflect on their meaning. You also can listen to sacred music, spoken words or any music you find relaxing or inspiring. You may want to write your reflections in a journal or discuss them with a friend or spiritual leader.
  • Focus your love and gratitude. In this type of meditation, you focus your attention on a sacred object or being, weaving feelings of love and gratitude into your thoughts. You can also close your eyes and use your imagination or gaze at representations of the object.

Building your meditation skills

Don't judge your meditation skills, which may only increase your stress. Meditation takes practice. Keep in mind, for instance, that it's common for your mind to wander during meditation, no matter how long you've been practicing meditation. If you're meditating to calm your mind and your attention wanders, slowly return to the object, sensation or movement you're focusing on.

Experiment, and you'll likely find out what types of meditation work best for you and what you enjoy doing. Adapt meditation to your needs at the moment. Remember, there's no right way or wrong way to meditate. What matters is that meditation helps you with stress reduction and feeling better overall.

 

By: Mayo Clinic Staff

Original Article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/meditation/HQ01070/NSECTIONGROUP=2

More Spiritual Health...

Meditation can wipe away the day's stress, bringing with it inner peace. See how you can easily learn to practice meditation whenever you need it most.

If stress has you anxious, tense and worried, consider trying meditation. Spending even a few minutes in meditation can restore your calm and inner peace.

Anyone can practice meditation. It's simple and inexpensive, and it doesn't require any special equipment. And you can practice meditation wherever you are — whether you're out for a walk, riding the bus, waiting at the doctor's office or even in the middle of a difficult business meeting.

Understanding meditation

Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. Meditation originally was meant to help deepen understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. These days, meditation is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction.

Meditation is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine. Meditation produces a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. This process results in enhanced physical and emotional well-being.

Benefits of meditation

Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that benefits both your emotional well-being and your overall health. And these benefits don't end when your meditation session ends. Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day and can even improve certain medical conditions.

Meditation and emotional well-being
When you meditate, you clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress.

The emotional benefits of meditation include:

  • Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
  • Building skills to manage your stress
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Focusing on the present
  • Reducing negative emotions

Meditation and illness
Meditation also might be useful if you have a medical condition, especially one that may be worsened by stress. While a growing body of scientific research supports the health benefits of meditation, some researchers believe it's not yet possible to draw conclusions about the possible benefits of meditation.

With that in mind, some research suggests that meditation may help such conditions as:

  • Allergies
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Asthma
  • Binge eating
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Pain
  • Sleep problems
  • Substance abuse

Be sure to talk to your health care provider about the pros and cons of using meditation if you have any of these conditions or other health problems. In some cases, meditation can worsen symptoms associated with certain mental health conditions. Meditation isn't a replacement for traditional medical treatment. But it may be a useful addition to your other treatment.

Types of meditation

Meditation is an umbrella term for the many ways to a relaxed state of being. There are many types of meditation and relaxation techniques that have meditation components. All share the same goal of achieving inner peace.

Ways to meditate can include:

  • Guided meditation. Sometimes called guided imagery or visualization, with this method of meditation you form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing. You try to use as many senses as possible, such as smells, sights, sounds and textures. You may be led through this process by a guide or teacher.
  • Mantra meditation. In this type of meditation, you silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts.
  • Mindfulness meditation. This type of meditation is based on being mindful, or having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment. You broaden your conscious awareness. You focus on what you experience during meditation, such as the flow of your breath. You can observe your thoughts and emotions but let them pass without judgment.
  • Qi gong. This practice generally combines meditation, relaxation, physical movement and breathing exercises to restore and maintain balance. Qi gong (CHEE-gung) is part of traditional Chinese medicine.
  • Tai chi. This is a form of gentle Chinese martial arts. In tai chi (TIE-chee), you perform a self-paced series of postures or movements in a slow, graceful manner while practicing deep breathing.
  • Transcendental meditation. You use a mantra, such as a word, sound or phrase repeatedly silently, to narrow your conscious awareness and eliminate all thoughts from your mind. You focus exclusively on your mantra to achieve a state of perfect stillness and consciousness.
  • Yoga. You perform a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises to promote a more flexible body and a calm mind. As you move through poses that require balance and concentration, you're encouraged to focus less on your busy day and more on the moment.

Elements of meditation

Different types of meditation may include different features to help you meditate. These may vary depending on whose guidance you follow or who's teaching a class. Some of the most common features in meditation include:

  • Focused attention. Focusing your attention is generally one of the most important elements of meditation. Focusing your attention is what helps free your mind from the many distractions that cause stress and worry. You can focus your attention on such things as a specific object, an image, a mantra, or even your breathing.
  • Relaxed breathing. This technique involves deep, even-paced breathing using the diaphragm muscle to expand your lungs. The purpose is to slow your breathing, take in more oxygen, and reduce the use of shoulder, neck and upper chest muscles while breathing so that you breathe more efficiently.
  • A quiet setting. If you're a beginner, practicing meditation may be easier if you're in a quiet spot with few distractions — no television, radios or cellphones. As you get more skilled at meditation, you may be able to do it anywhere, especially in high-stress situations where you benefit the most from meditation, such as a traffic jam, a stressful work meeting or a long line at the grocery store.
  • A comfortable position. You can practice meditation whether you're sitting, lying down, walking or in other positions or activities. Just try to be comfortable so that you can get the most out of your meditation.

Everyday ways to practice meditation

Don't let the thought of meditating the "right" way add to your stress. Sure, you can attend special meditation centers or group classes led by trained instructors. But you also can practice meditation easily on your own.

And you can make meditation as formal or informal as you like — whatever suits your lifestyle and situation. Some people build meditation into their daily routine. For example, they may start and end each day with an hour of meditation. But all you really need is a few minutes of quality time for meditation.

Here are some ways you can practice meditation on your own, whenever you choose:

  • Breathe deeply. This technique is good for beginners because breathing is a natural function. Focus all attention on your breathing. Concentrate on feeling and listening as you inhale and exhale through your nostrils. Breathe deeply and slowly. When your attention wanders, gently return your focus to your breathing.
  • Scan your body. When using this technique, focus attention on different parts of your body. Become aware of your body's various sensations, whether that's pain, tension, warmth or relaxation. Combine body scanning with breathing exercises and imagine breathing heat or relaxation into and out of different parts of your body.
  • Repeat a mantra. You can create your own mantra, whether it's religious or secular. Examples of religious mantras include the Jesus Prayer in the Christian tradition, the holy name of God in Judaism, or the om mantra of Hinduism, Buddhism and other Eastern religions.
  • Walk and meditate. Combining a walk with meditation is an efficient and healthy way to relax. You can use this technique anywhere you're walking — in a tranquil forest, on a city sidewalk or at the mall. When you use this method, slow down the pace of walking so that you can focus on each movement of your legs or feet. Don't focus on a particular destination. Concentrate on your legs and feet, repeating action words in your mind such as lifting, moving and placing as you lift each foot, move your leg forward and place your foot on the ground.
  • Engage in prayer. Prayer is the best known and most widely practiced example of meditation. Spoken and written prayers are found in most faith traditions. You can pray using your own words or read prayers written by others. Check the self-help or 12-step-recovery section of your local bookstore for examples. Talk with your rabbi, priest, pastor or other spiritual leader about resources.
  • Read and reflect. Many people report that they benefit from reading poems or sacred texts, and taking a few moments to quietly reflect on their meaning. You also can listen to sacred music, spoken words or any music you find relaxing or inspiring. You may want to write your reflections in a journal or discuss them with a friend or spiritual leader.
  • Focus your love and gratitude. In this type of meditation, you focus your attention on a sacred object or being, weaving feelings of love and gratitude into your thoughts. You can also close your eyes and use your imagination or gaze at representations of the object.

Building your meditation skills

Don't judge your meditation skills, which may only increase your stress. Meditation takes practice. Keep in mind, for instance, that it's common for your mind to wander during meditation, no matter how long you've been practicing meditation. If you're meditating to calm your mind and your attention wanders, slowly return to the object, sensation or movement you're focusing on.

Experiment, and you'll likely find out what types of meditation work best for you and what you enjoy doing. Adapt meditation to your needs at the moment. Remember, there's no right way or wrong way to meditate. What matters is that meditation helps you with stress reduction and feeling better overall.

 

By: Mayo Clinic Staff

Original Article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/meditation/HQ01070/NSECTIONGROUP=2

No doubt about it, I’m passionate about yoga.  I’ve witnessed students take control over their health, their appearance, and the way they age. Designing the life you want is extremely powerful—yoga offers opportunities to lose weight, develop strength and improve flexibility—but it is yoga’s mental conditioning that can transform lives.    

This sequence starts with standing postures that gradually challenge your balance and ask you to stay mentally and physically centered.  As you practice, synchronize your breath with your movement, and notice the way your mind reacts to challenge and ease.  Through this process you will learn to focus on each moment, not letting your thoughts race ahead or replay the past.  Reducing your mind’s tendency to wander, criticize, formulate fears or limitations, strengthens your ability to concentrate.

Go through poses 1 to 9 on one side and then repeat on your other side before finishing in pose 10 to find a sense of calm. Bringing the full power of your mind to your daily life can create real change.  Remember though, exercising your brain is like exercising your abs- you have to do it more than once to see results!

By: Kim Shand

Original Article: http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/focus-yoga-build-concentration

Is there a connection between faith and health? Historically science has not embraced the connection between faith and health but today, an increasing number of scientific authorities acknowledge that spiritual practices, including prayer, worship, and service to others, influence our health.

One of those people who welcome and is driving this shift is Greg Anderson. Diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer in 1984, Greg's surgeon predicted he had just 30 days to live. "The shift that is underway is historic," said Anderson from his Cancer Recovery Foundation of America offices in Harrisburg. "We are now witnessing the uniting of science and spirit, the combination of body, mind, and soul, to reveal the stunning effects of faith on both physical and emotional health." Anderson, along with United Methodist Pastor Michael Gingerich, has revised Anderson's classic, The Cancer Conqueror to address this critical health-faith connection.

The Cancer Conqueror with Bible Study is an uplifting guide to cancer patients and support networks of the Judeo-Christian faith. The book is currently available only through the Cancer Recovery Foundation website at www.CancerRecovery.org.

The historical link between science and religion began to crumble centuries ago as a reluctant church held fast to positions that science could empirically refute. "But today," said Anderson, "the shoe is on the other foot. Based on over 30 years of compelling data, medicine can no longer simply dismiss the role that faith plays in both the prevention of and recovery from illness.

"What I am seeing is a new whole-person sensibility," said Anderson. "It combines body, mind, and spirit in the best sense, a powerful blend of the scientific and what I believe should rightly be called the mystic. Instead of limiting the roles of healthcare providers, I see an expansion, an amalgam of skills, including part scientist, nutritionist, psychologist, and spiritual guide. The result is a new and vital healing paradigm that is now rippling through the American healthcare system."

Anderson has devoted the last 20 years to the study and teaching of this synthesis. Today he is widely recognized as one of America's foremost healing authorities. Author of seven books, including the 1.5 million copy international bestseller, The Cancer Conqueror, he sees a rapidly emerging agenda that draws on the knowledge available to us from experimental science, the wisdom gleaned from the personal experiences of patients, and the stories of healing from the world's great religious traditions.

Explained Anderson, "The stories of healing are always the most moving. They tend to fall into three groups. First are those who may not be completely cured of their illness but who learn to cope with illness through prayer and other forms of spiritual practice. For others, the faith/health connection may mean stopping the progression of an illness like cancer or heart disease. Still others experience the reversal or complete healing of their disease. It is impossible to predict or control the level of healing. But all typically result in a deep sense of inner peace. This almost always offers some degree of improvement and can be truly powerful."

Based in Hershey, the non-profit organization's mission is to help all people prevent and survive cancer. The organization's reach spans the globe and has been helping people since 1985.

Cancer Recovery Foundation focuses on the "people side" of cancer. It emphasizes a whole-person approach to getting well again, pioneering the "cancer survival pyramid," a tool widely used in cancer education.

Cancer Recovery Foundation's adult programs include retreats and support groups that emphasize healthy diets, ability-appropriate exercise, mind/body and faith/health disciplines. Cancer Survival and Bible Study Kits are available to all cancer patients. All Cancer Recovery programs are in addition to, not in place of, conventional medical treatments.

The Foundation's children's programs provide toy-filled gift bags to children during treatment, camp scholarships following treatment and emergency financial assistance to families in need.

Cancer Recovery Foundation serves through healthcare providers and directly to individuals. Its adult programs, services and materials are available through more than 300 cancer treatment centers throughout the United States, Canada, France, Great Britain and Germany. The Foundation's children's programs and services are available through more than 170 pediatric oncology treatment centers across the United States. A special medical mission outreach also is providing pediatric oncology services in Uganda and Ukraine.

To obtain a copy of The Cancer Conqueror with Bible Study or to find out how to start a support group in your place of worship, please call (800) 238-6479 or visit the website, http://www.cancerrecovery.org.

By: Susan Cort

Original Article: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/27202.php

Most people believe that besides having a body, mind and emotions, we have a spiritual nature. I like to think that we are spirits having human experiences. Other people may have different beliefs on the matter, but in general we agree on having a spiritual nature of sorts.

A major part of your life is your spiritual beliefs and health or contentment in that area. Fulfillment in your spiritual health can contribute to leading a satisfying and successful life. Factors involved in having a satisfying spiritual health are that you should be forgiving, be grateful, and be at peace with yourself.

Questions you may have include:

  • What does forgiving do for me?
  • What is there to be grateful for?
  • How can you be at peace with yourself?

 

Be forgiving

You must forgive others and forgive yourself. Forgiveness frees you from hate, forces you to examine your motives and demands that you give up the need to be always right. When you hold back forgiveness, you let things eat away in your heart. This cannot only affect your spiritual health, but it can also be detrimental to your physical and emotional well-being.

When you forgive someone who has harmed you or done you wrong, you not only free yourself of the burden, but you actually gain power over the situation. Anger or revenge only escalates the problem within your spirit. But forgiveness does not mean you must continue to deal with the person.

Some good expressions to remember are; "Forgive and forget" and "to forgive is divine." Forgiveness is an important step in maintaining your spiritual well-being.

Be grateful

You should be grateful and thankful for the blessings you receive. Every time you have a negative thought, countered with a thought of gratitude the more you contemplate your blessings, the more you feel the changes in your emotional and spiritual outlook. The worst habit is ingratitude.

If you feel gratitude, you will be amazed at the changes in yourself, your health, your relationships, your career—your entire life.

Be at peace with yourself

You need a personal peace that will disconnect you from the disquieting or threatening thoughts. Personal peace is the knowledge that all is well and understanding that God has everything under control.

It comes becomes a reality when we shift our focus from problems we cannot solve to a higher vision of hopefulness.

Summary

In order to feel spiritually satisfied, you should be forgiving, be grateful, and be at peace with yourself.

By: Ron Curtus

Original Article: http://www.school-for-champions.com/life/importance_of_spiritual_health.htm